Ok, where does the time go; my last post was 6 months ago? I don’t think about my hips anymore. Hip dysplasia no longer defines me. Pain is no longer a daily occurrence. What remains is unwavering gratitude that I can walk without pain. Sleep without pain. Work without pain. Run without pain. Bike without pain…you get the idea. I am throwing 100% of my energy into becoming the best version of myself. In April, I ran the Fruita Desert RATS half-trail marathon with my friend and running partner, Michelle, who also had a PAO in 2012. Here is us at the top at mile 10:
In June, I did it again: Team All Screwed Up finished the Ragnar Trail Relay in Snowmass, CO in just over 25 hours. I ran 14.5 miles with over 3400 feet elevation gain. Here are some pics:
So that is what has been going on: running, working, some travel. Hopefully moving off the Front Range soon, I need a change of scene. Life is too short to sit around and wait for an ideal time to do stuff. I am in the mode of “just do it.” I’ll pop on in once in awhile to give an update, but in closing, I’ll just say its been a hell of a ride and I am glad to be on the other side of the hip dysplasia journey. There is life after PAO surgery!
Once upon a time, there was a girl who just wanted to be liked. In grade school, she was teased and always picked to be last for recess and P.E. games. In 8th grade, kids teased her and called her “UNCORD” for uncoordinated (it wasn’t her fault that she was 5’9″ at age 13). In her freshman year of high school, her basketball coach announced in front of the entire team that her “season was a disappointment to all.” She bottled her hurt and poured herself into academics, became a straight A student and got accepted into U.C. Davis. Her freshman year of college, she met a boy. He ran Cross Country. There was that damn sports thing again, she thought. She wanted this boy to like her, so she ran. The first time they ran together, he stopped and immediately criticized her. This was nothing new. Being stubborn as she is, she kept running, even in her Keds. She finally splurged on a pair of running shoes; a luxury very dear since she was putting herself through school and working three jobs. She ended up majoring in Exercise Science.
Through the years, she became kinda good at running (well, for her). In grad school, she did a couple half-marathons, then progressed into triathlon, which is where she found her niche. For eight years she was a serious recreational triathlete who pushed to often place in her division, which was a big deal for races held in the triathlon mecca of the world.
Then hip pain…infrequent. She blew it off. No pain, no gain. Then it became like the neighbor who drops in unannounced and is always super annoying. She tried to dodge this neighbor, but he caught up with her.
She retired from racing triathlon on a high note in 2008, placing first in her division at a local race. It made sense: work was getting busier, and it was time to do other things…
Five years later, in 2013, her college roommate and long time friend and her made a pact to do a Half-Ironman by the time they turn 40. Five years off from racing was enough time to be excited about a big athletic goal again. She started training. It was that spring that she took the step that would forever change her life….
Hip dysplasia diagnosis, two PAO (periacetabular osteotomy) surgeries in 8.5 months, months of rehab, and relearning how to walk, she wondered if she could ever run again. Even if she could, should she? Is running even a good idea post-op with mild hip arthritis and having the pelvis sawed apart in six places and rearranged to a better configuration? What if the six 5-7 inch screws in her pelvis will cause pain while running? Disgusted with her weight gain due to chronic pain pre-op and inability to move, she knew she had to do something. Run/walking it was.
In late fall of 2015, a fellow PAO Warrior posted on the Facebook PAO group that she was putting together an eight-person team to do the Ragnar Trail Relay in Snowmass, Colorado the first weekend of June. Each runner would run the 4, 3.8 and 6.7-mile loops and about 2000 feet total elevation gain through the Rocky Mountains in the course of a maximum 36 hours, and 116 miles to be completed by the entire team. Mountain running, trail running, night running…seeing bears? sleep?…. camping, friends, laughter, fun! An incredible challenge, she told her friend “give me three months to train and I’ll let you know if I can do it.”
The rest is history. Team “All Screwed Up” completed the Ragnar Trail Relay this past weekend in just over 25 hours. Six of us had PAO surgeries and our other two teammates had major surgeries. Aside from Colorado, our team members hailed from Reno, Boston and Cincinnati to come to one of the most beautiful places in the country to partake in his adventure. We ran on trail through the mountains, laughed, camped, ate, got very little sleep, and fortunately we did not see any bears. We talked about all things running and PAO recovery, which included the obligatory post-op stories of poop and swollen labia. I made life-long friends and we are bonded not only as Warriors, but Ragnarians. For me, this race was the big middle finger to everyone who in the past had teased and criticized my athletic abilities. I may not be fast, but I can endure. And I will continue to enjoy running for the rest of my days. Next year, I’ll be back, better than ever!
My diagnosis of bilateral hip dysplasia in 2013 at the age of 39 was a shock. Almost 2 years later, I can say without a doubt, that it was certainly life changing. Two periacetabular osteotomy (PAO) surgeries within 9 months has also been life altering. Looking back, I never would have predicted I would have had 6 screws in my pelvis, live with my sister in California for a total of 2 months, spend 7 of the past 11 months on a walker and/or crutches, not drive for a total of 5 months, own not one, but TWO sets of surgery recovery equipment fit for a nursing home, and learn how to be a patient person. I have grown in ways that is hard to explain, so I will just say I am not the same person I was when I got diagnosed; I am a better person for it.
The other day I was thinking about my first surgery recovery and what is different (do not equate “different” with “easier”) this go around, and this story came to mind. I was horrified when it happened, but now I can look back and laugh. Nothing is sacred in the PAO life:
I was 7 days post-op PAO #1 (April 2014) and I was staying at my sister’s house for awhile post-op before I flew home to Colorado. I had to pee BAD (like the kind that you wait forever in bed holding it until you absolutely have to get out of bed because, on a walker, it takes forever and a day to make it to the bathroom.) The non-master bathroom was my bathroom and I had my raised toilet seat. The raised toilet seat fits over a regular commode but is 6 inches higher, making it so much easier to passively flex at the hip to sit.
It was at night and I walkered gingerly to the bathroom, and sat on my trustworthy raised toilet seat and I started peeing something fierce. Relief! Then I felt that my bare foot was wet, I was perplexed, thinking, “WTF? Is the toilet leaking?” So I look down. Much to my dismay, I realize I was peeing on myself and all over the floor because the toilet lid was DOWN!!! Prior to my little bathroom excursion, my 7 year old nephew went to the bathroom, put the lid down and then he was trying to be helpful so he put the raised toilet seat over the closed lid. I screamed in horror and my sister rushed in and I had a total freaking meltdown; bawling my head off, saying I was sorry. Being a mother of a 3 yr old and 7 year old, she didn’t care, she was just mopping it up with anything handy saying “At least it isn’t explosive diarrhea!” I just could not let it go, I was melting down like a toddler, bawling saying “I’mmmmm sooooorrrrrrryyyyyy….I caaaaaaaan’t doooooo thiiiiiiiis! Its only been a weeeeeeek”. At the time, I really thought I could not survive. Of course, we laugh about it now and that did not happen again!
I woke up this morning with a heavy heart with tears welling in my eyes. I quickly (well, as fast as one can move with a “dead” leg and walker) got up as I felt a blog post brewing.
Hope. What is hope? Why do we rely so much on hope?
Hope is what keeps us going. It gives us the motivation to get through our days. It allows us to dream and create a better life. If there is no hope, there is no life, heart or dream.
When I decided to move forward with both PAO surgeries, it was to give me hope for a pain-free, functional active life. I still have hope that once I recover from this most recent surgery, I hope I am pain-free and thus, my chronic pain will not consume most of my thoughts and precious time.
So why, you may wonder, did I wake up this morning with a heavy heart? I was given, or should I say – I gave myself – false hope. This has nothing to do with surgery, but what I have found is that the emotional toll PAO surgery recovery can make the patient raw with her emotions. So when hope is given and then taken away, it goes straight to the core:
About two weeks post op, (shortly after Christmas) I had some conversations with my mom on the phone. I was starting to feel the hope brewing that she was drug free (she was at the time) and wanting to make a change (she is addicted to pain killers and God knows what else). Her living conditions are awful, she lives in a non-licensed “board and care” home, with little care and people transitioning in and out of the home for shorter periods of time. She confessed these people often bring in drugs into the home (I didn’t ask what those drugs were) and that she was not behaving. She said that she cannot perform some of the activities of daily living and wanted to move into a licensed skilled care facility (there would be no drugs there!). Of course, I offered my help; I spoke with my wonderful sister and she offered her assistance as well. “Maybe this is it!” I thought. “Maybe this is her chance for a better life and we can have a normal drug free mom!” We researched medical, assisted living, etc. We were on it!
Yesterday afternoon I got a text from my sister: “Mom doesn’t want to move.” My heart sank. For the past few days I have been struggling with my own surgery recovery-related personal demons and depression. And just when I was feeling better… “This is shitty timing,” I thought. I called my sister and we talked briefly. The bottom line is mom doesn’t want to move. As much as I forced myself to think “OK, whatever. We tried,” my heart sank.
I am sick and tired of false hope. I am tired of people, my mom especially, dangling the carrot of hope – almost within my reach – only to snatch it away. I don’t appreciate being teased with hope. Right now I cannot even think about talking to my mother. If she was anyone else I would have nothing to do with her.
What is my lesson in all this? That I can only rely on the hope that only involves me. I only have the power to change my own life, I cannot make people change. It’s also important for me to recognize “false” hope: more often than not it’s when someone other than myself is involved. From today going forward, I am going to just focus on me: MY self-care, MY surgery recovery. The rest will unfold as it should.
Time is a flyin’! I am well on my way on this road to recovery. Yesterday was my 5 week post-op anniversary. In 2 weeks I start Physical Therapy, 3 weeks get cleared to weight bear as tolerated, and hopefully 4 weeks until I can drive again (fingers crossed on that one!) but who’s counting? THIS GIRL is counting! It motivates me to have time goals so I have something to look forward to.
Overall, I am doing well. Mentally and emotionally, this go-around is easier for me. Physically, however, I have had some pretty intense groin pain and I discovered that I was accidentally putting too much weight on my op leg, straining the pubic cut area. Below is my X-ray taken at 3 weeks post op and you can see that gnarly gap in my pubic bone:
I am behaving now: being more mindful of truly practicing “toe touch” weight bearing. Now that the groin pain is gone, my hip flexor on my “good” leg is ON FIRE! So I guess I need to rest more. I have learned when your body nags at you via physical pain, its trying to tell you something. I only have one go-around to rehab correctly so I am listening!
In the meantime, I am reading the latest book of the “Fever” series (total guilty pleasure), starting to work a bit at my desk, and look forward to my friends’ visits via my Meal Train. Each day I get stronger, and I cannot wait to have this all behind me!